illustrated portrait of French author Guy de Maupassant

Guy de Maupassant

Start Free Trial

Who are the characters in Guy de Maupassant's "Moonlight"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The two main characters in the story are two sisters, the more serious or level-headed Julie Robere and Henriette Letore. Henriette is the main story teller, who nearly "faints" in her sister's arms as she greets her, because she has taken on a lover. Henriette blames this on her husband's lack of romantic sensibility, but it quickly becomes clear that Henriette is extremely romantic, in fact overly so, with stereotypical ideas about how love should be. Her lover coolly questions why she thinks a beautiful landscape necessitates an outpouring of love language or a kiss. Henriette, however, believes that it does. Everything for her needs to occur at a heightened emotional level, making her reminiscent of the character Marianne in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, and more to point, like Flaubert's own Emma Bovary. At the end of the story, her sister tells her she is in love with the moonlight, in other words, the idea of love, more than love itself. Therefore, both her husband and lover remain flat characters on which Henriette projects her fantasies.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are four characters in the story, but two of them are developed only in exposition. The primary characters are two French sisters, Julie Roubere and her older sister, Henriette Letore. Although she is the older of the two, Henriette is only twenty-four. "Moonlight" is a story within a story, since the plot includes a dramatic experience Henriette shares with Julie. The story Henriette tells her sister includes two men, her husband and a young lawyer she met while on a trip to Switzerland. These two characters appear only in her story to Julie; they are not part of the action of the primary story which begins with Henriette's arrival at Julie's home and ends with Julie's response to Henriette's tale.

Henriette is developed as a sensitive and emotional woman, trapped in a loveless marriage. Her husband is "perfect," except for his emotional insensitivity toward Henriette and his lack of passion. Henriette's young lover is the antithesis of her husband, seeming to feel and speak all that Henriette feels but cannot share with her husband. Finally, although Julie is younger than her sister, she seems to be the wiser of the two in matters of the heart.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial